During his first major speech as the new Federal Chief Information Officer, Steven VanRoekel highlighted his technology priorities and signalled that he would continue to “drive innovation in government and make investments in technology that better serve the American people.”
Dan Mintz, chief operating officer at Powertek and former CIO at the Transportation Department, found much to be positive about in VanRoekel’s speech.
“Different people have different opinions of where the government is in technology,” Mintz told In Depth with Francis Rose. “I think everyone would agree there’s a lot of talent and passion there to do the right thing.” Mintz said VanRoekel’s priorities signaled a desire for government, business and the public to work and improve things together.
VanRoekel spoke at an Oct. 25 event sponsored by TechAmerica and the Churchill Club in Palo Alto, Calif. “We will use technology to improve government productivity and lower barriers to citizen and business interaction with the government, all while bolstering cybersecurity,” he said.
“My reaction was he had a lot of great ideas,” Mintz said. “The issue is that somebody who has a sense of urgency and a limited amount of time has to really prioritize what they’re going to get done. Because they’re only going to be able to get done a few things, and he itemized some very, very big ideas.” In addition to cybersecurity, VanRoekel also discussed his ideas for maximizing IT return on investment, improving citizen and business interaction with agencies and closing the so-called productivity gap.
As part of his Future First initiative, VanRoekel announced an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, where citizens could submit ideas on how the government could improve itself. Mintz already has an idea for an email he’d like to submit.
“In my opinion, if he wants to make a substantive, long-term change, I would take something like NIEM, which is a project that’s been around for a number of years that I touched on at DoT, which is an attempt to standardize the ability to exchange data between federal departments and other government agencies. Those kinds of changes stay,” Mintz said. “Policy changes come and go. But if you integrate data, it stays integrated, and I think that would be a very powerful result.”
While some managers might see crowdsourcing-by-email as a way to subvert the decision-making process, Mintz sees it another way.
“The organization itself still has to make the decision,” he said. “The crowdsourcing activity is an input to the decision process. I think the greater danger for somebody in that position is, again, trying to take all these great ideas — and there are some great ideas — and focusing on the ones where that person is able to have long-term impact.”